Archive for April, 2014


April 28, 2014

FoxNews on April 27, 2014, published an AP report on Germany’s foreign minister having condemned as “revolting” the appearance under armed guard of eight European military observers being held prisoner by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Excerpts below:

Frank-Walter Steinmeier says the appearance of the observers in front of reporters in the eastern city of Slovyansk was “a breach of all the rules” and violated the men’s dignity.

Steinmeier called on Russia to pressure the separatists into releasing all of the prisoners “as soon as possible.”


April 27, 2014

FoxNews on April 26, 2014, reported that the leaders of the G-7 announced they had agreed to “move swiftly” to impose new sanctions against Russia over its continued role in the unrest in Ukraine.

A statement released by the White House said the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission “have now agreed that we will move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia.”

“Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine’s presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia’s actions.”

Earlier Friday, Fox News confirmed new sanctions were expected to be announced on April 28 against Russian entities and individuals.

The G-7 statement follows Secretary of State John Kerry’s blunt charge on April 24 that Russia was not abiding by last week’s Geneva agreement to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, and his warning “if Russia continues in this direction, it will be not just a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake.”

Earlier Reuters, quoting unidentified sources, said the European Union was expected to impose fresh sanctions at the same time and would name 15 previously unidentified individuals, focusing on those believed responsible for the Ukraine unrest. The sources said the U.S. list was expected to include “cronies” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A senior Obama administration official told The Associated Press that each country in the G-7 would determine their own sanctions. While the sanctions will be coordinated, they will not necessarily be identical, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and insisted on anonymity.

Tensions were heightened on the ground, with Russian fighter jets reported crossing into Ukrainian airspace and a team of unarmed foreign military observers detained by pro-Russian forces in Slovyansk, the heart of the separatist movement in the east.

Ukraine’s reaction was swift.

“The world has not yet forgotten World War II, but Russia is already keen on starting World War III,” Ukraine’s acting prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a meeting of his Cabinet.

At the United Nations, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Danylo Lubkivsky said he feared an imminent Russian invasion.

“We have the information we are in danger,” Lubkivsky told reporters, saying Russian military maneuvers involving air and ground forces along the Ukraine border were a “very dangerous development.”

“We are going to protect our motherland against any invasion,” Lubkivsky said. “We call on the Russians to stop this madness.”

The heightened rhetoric came as U.S. officials reported that Russian fighter jets flew into Ukrainian airspace several times over the last 24 hours, in what one called a provocation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


April 25, 2014

The Washington Times on April 23, 2014, reporte that Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland are planning to band together and form a joint military brigade, according to local media reports.

Lithuania Defense Minister Juozas Olekas told the Baltic News Service on April 22 he met with the acting defense minister of Ukraine, Mykhailo Koval, who assured him that the country will soon sign the founding agreement for the brigade.

Movement toward establishing the international brigade comes as the U.S.  military is expanding its land-based exercises in Eastern Europe. Those exercises will take place in two of the countries that are slated to merge their military forces: Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

About 600 U.S. troops will rotate in and out of the countries for about a month. Under the plan, additional exercises will occur on a recurring basis, according to the Associated Press.

Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said that training involving U.S. troops is “purely bilateral” and not part of a overarching plan to establish a training framework for the joint military brigade.


April 25, 2014

The Washington Times on April 23, 2014, reported on the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system calling it what it sounds like: “Top Gun” for drones. Excerpts below:

The U.S. Navy issued a “restricted” draft request for proposals for the carrier-based drone on April 17 and has already narrowed down the field of companies vying for chance to work on the project.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics and Northrop Grumman have been involved in the project in some capacity, technology website Ars Technicareported on April 22.

While the Navy seems to have wrestled with what exactly its new drones will be capable of, members of Congress want UCLASS aircraft that could essentially provide the strike capability possessed by humans.

“We believe the current path could limit the capability growth of the system in the future,” Rep. Randy Forbes, chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, and Rep. Mike McIntyre, the subcommittee’s ranking member, wrote in September 2013, Ars Technica reported.

In June, a Navy document obtained by the U.S. Naval Institute indicated that the Navy wanted a drone program that would “have the capability to put UCLASS drones up on patrol during the hours that carriers were not conducting manned flight operations as a mid-to-long range surveillance patrol,” Ars Technica reported. With the congressional input, plans changed.

“We’re talking Tomcat size [drones],” the Navy’s director of air warfare, Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, told the U.S. Naval Institute News of the new vision, Ars Technica reported.

To put the size dimensions in perspective, UCLASS will feature drones that will be 70,000 and 80,000 pounds, which is twice the size of the Navy’s X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), Ars Technica said.


April 24, 2014

FoxNews on April 24, 2014, published an AP report on amid Ukraine’s deepening crisis, the presidents of post-Soviet republics and EU member states are gathering in Prague to save a project to boost their ties. Excerpts below:

Launched in the Czech capital in 2009, the Eastern Partnership was supposed to inspire democratic change in six post-communist nations to ensure political stability and turn the territory east of the EU’s border into a region of stable and prosperous democracies.

In exchange, the European Union promised Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine free-trade agreements, visa-free travel and other incentives.

By gathering in Prague, the leaders of these former Soviet [colonies] are…re-stating their preference for closer ties to Europe.

Russia worked aggressively and successfully to derail the EU deal with Ukraine in November 2013, setting off months of protests that toppled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The same thing happened to the EU agreement with Armenia.

The presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova as well Ukraine’s foreign minister are scheduled to attend the meeting with their counterparts from the Czech Republic, Austria, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia.

Only Belarus is boycotting the event because its leader, authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, was not invited.


April 22, 2014

FoxNews on April 22, 2014, reported that the State Department is vouching for photographic “evidence” that purports to show Russian special forces in eastern Ukraine, despite Vladimir Putin’s claims that his operatives are not behind the unrest. Excerpts below:

Ukraine’s government has been circulating images over the last several days to international organizations, claiming they show “Russian sabotage-reconnaissance groups” at work in two eastern Ukrainian towns.

…State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday they help bolster claims of ties between Russia and armed militants in eastern Ukraine.
“So these are just further evidence of the connection between Russia and the armed militants,” she said.

Psaki repeatedly described the images that way when pressed for more information at a press briefing. She said they show “individuals who visibly appear to be tied to Russia.”

The images, and the captions, purport to show a select group of militants photographed during earlier pro-Russian operations, and again during operations in Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, in eastern Ukraine.

One set shows a bearded man in a military cap in several settings. The captions claim one image was taken in Georgia in 2008, and two others were taken in Kramatorsk and Sloviansk this year. They appear to show the same person. The document labels him as a “soldier of the Russian Special Forces.”

Another set purports to show another militant in eastern Ukraine, and in a “family photo” of a Russian forces group.

The photos were included in a letter sent by Ihor Prokopchuk, Ukraine’s permanent representative to the International Organizations in Vienna, to delegations of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


April 19, 2014

FoxNews on April 15, 2014, reported that China’s president is calling on his country to boost its military power in space by increasing coordination between its air and space defense programs.

Speaking at the air force headquarters in Beijing, Xi Jinping told officers “to speed up air and space integration and sharpen their offensive and defensive capabilities,” Xinhua news agency reported, according to Reuters.

The news agency did not elaborate as to how China expects to do this, but state media afterwards called it a response to the United States’ increasing militarization of space.

China says its space program is for peaceful means, but a Pentagon report released last year claimed Beijing is looking at ways to block its rivals from using space-based assets during a crisis, Reuters reports.

An analysis of satellite images also suggests that a Chinese rocket launch in May 2013 was actually a test of an anti-satellite weapon and not a research mission.

Jinping previously has said he wants China to become a superpower in space.


April 18, 2014

USA Today on April 17, 2014, reported that Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to “register” with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Israeli media. Excerpts below:

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.

The leaflet begins, “Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and “register.”

It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, “and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk,” a name adopted by the militant leadership.

The leaflet then described which documents Jews should provide: “ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”

Consequences for non-compliance will result in citizenship being revoked “and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.” A registration fee of $50 would be required, it said.


April 17, 2014

Washington Times on April 16, 2014, reported that a multinational naval force is expected to depart for the Baltic Sea from Germany within days as part of a NATO military contingent intended to counter Russian provocation in the Ukraine. Excerpts below:

The force was among additional military measures approved in Brussels by representatives of the alliance as a way to ease the concerns of Ukraine’s Eastern European neighbors.

NATO officials said they intend to enhance their air, ground and naval presence in the area. But details of what those defense enhancements would entail were slow to emerge.

Lt. Col. Jay Janzen, spokesman for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, said the naval force would be comprised of ships from various parts of the world, not necessarily Eastern Europe. Speaking by telephone from his office in Belgium Lt. Col. Janzen declined to give a projected date on which the ships would arrive in the Baltic Sea but said the transport would likely take just a couple days.

NATO officials are still hashing together the fine details of the piecemeal plan, after having been mulling over the framework for that plan for the past five days.

The Washington Times reported earlier that NATO’s 28 ambassadors and its military committee had access to an options report developed by Supreme Allied Commander Europe Air Gen. Philip Breedlove prior to the meeting.

The report contained an array of air, land and naval options that NATO can tap to support those Eastern European allies who are concerned that Russian forces amassing along the Ukraine border are a threat to their sovereignty.

NATO’s highest decision-making body met on April 16 to discuss the military options outlined in the report. After that meeting, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance had agreed on a package of military measures that would further reinforce NATO’s collective defense while showing solidarity among ally members.

Lt. Col. Janzen said NATO is “prudently shifting some assets” to protect alliance members but at a pace that is deliberately slow so as not to appear provocative and further escalate tension with Russia.

NATO’s Eastern European allies will also receive additional air support next month, when the alliance expands the scope of its Baltic Air Policing mission, Lt. Col. Janzen said. Normally, the mission consists of four aircraft that fly solely out of Lithuania.

In May, that mission will consist of 12 aircraft flying out of two locations in Eastern Europe: Šiauliai, Lithuania and Ämari Air Base in Estonia, according to Lt. Col. Janzen.


April 16, 2014

Free Republic on April 16, 2014, reported that Russia is going to kill 100-200 people and invade Ukraine. This according to a briefing by a leading Ukrainian Counterintelligence chief, Vitaly Naida, in Kyiv. Excerpts below:

“The main purpose of the action of special forces on the territory of Ukraine is the maximum the destabilization of the situation,” he said.

“Moreover, the intercepted conversations suggest-and I was sad to hear about it-that a country that declared themselves to be brotherly, is planning to shed blood on the streets of our cities,” he said.

“It’s those Russian Spetznaz forces who had seized the building of the Supreme Council and Council of Ministers of Crimea,” he said.

Ukrainian intelligence also said that the Russian special forces in Ukraine are commanded by Igor Strêlkova (callsign Strêlok), who “led the attempts to capture buildings in Kharkiv, Mykolayiv, Kherson, and Odessa.”

The troops now operating on Ukrainian territory also participated in the occupation of the territory of Georgia.